WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – White Plains High School student Kristin Sutton traveled to the state capitol to propose and defend legislation that she and the nine other members of the Youth and Government Club at the YMCA of White Plains wrote.
The club, a national program of the YMCA, worked for nearly six months to draft two bills. They met with two volunteer attorneys and held a practice presentation at the Microsoft Store in The Westchester Mall in February. From March 9 to 11, the group presented its bills in front of about 500 fellow Y&G members from across the state. It was one of six to be named a “premiere” group, but neither of its bills passed the congress of Y&G participants.
The students ran through all the procedures of introducing a bill, as if they were in the New York State Assembly. After introductions, they fielded technical questions, then accepted a series of pro and con statements from the audience. Finally, the Y&G participants voted.
The White Plains club's bills focused on imposing strict guidelines on what can be bought using an EBT card and allowing students to receive the educational benefits their parents paid for in taxes even if they chose to attend a school in a different district.
“My favorite aspect of the trip was meeting people from all over New York,” Sutton, a 10th-grader, said in a statement. “This club gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the confidence to speak in front of crowds.”
Sutton’s older sister Brittany was in the club from 2010 to 2012 and said she believes it helped her to get accepted to the University of Delaware, where she is now a freshman.
“Youth & Government was one of the greatest experiences I had as a high school student,” Brittany said in the statement. “It opened my eyes to different views on various issues and it gave me the confidence to stand up for what I believe in. It gave me the opportunity to express myself and it truly changed me as an individual for the better.”
Of the 10 club members, five traveled to Albany to present their legislation this year.
“This project gives students insight in to how our government works, allows their voices to be heard and is a great opportunity for them to network in a way they may not be able to otherwise,” Cassandra Martell, YMCA teen coordinator, said in the statement.
The Y&G has been in Westchester for more than 20 years and about 500 teens have participated.
Read about the 2012 White Plains Y&G team that traveled to Albany.